Hidden Spaces Image

Hidden Spaces

By on Sep 06, 2007

With land costs and provincial policies resulting

in ever-shrinking building lots, builders and

homeowners are being forced to transform

redundant areas of homes into usable living space. The

popular open-concept floor plan effectively eliminated

hallways and foyers that consumed viable living space.

And of course the previously maligned basement is now an

integral part of a home.

So how about all the crawlspace in the roof, traditionally

known as the attic? Although older homes continue to have their attics retrofitted, newer homes pose challenges

the industry may need to address.

Gabe Cicconi, president of Vesca Construction, says most

new home roof designs are not conducive to attic

renovations. "The pitch of the roof is imperative; if it's

too low you simply do not have enough head room," he

says, adding that the attic's floor joists often are not

engineered to support the weight of living space.

Then there's the small

problem of your new home

warranty program being voided

if structural modifications are

made. And even your home

insurance policy may be


So what would it take

for builders to make their

roofs attic-reno friendly? Lou

Frustaglio of DreamBuilders

Renovations says it would

entail "designing the roof

trusses to be weight bearing,

adding some rough-in services,

and providing an access point,"

noting it would only cost a few

thousand dollars if done at

the construction phase and

add as much as 25 per cent

more living space.

Indeed, innovative and

forward-thinking hombuilders

could easily achieve a

marketing edge and greater

profits by re-evaluating how

they treat attic space.

With a little imagination,

today's crawlspace could

become a stunning walk-in

closet, a secret retreat off the

master bedroom, an inspiring

home office, a charming guest

bedroom, a cozy playroom, a spacious loft, or a personal

theatre room. Or it could be used for something as mundane

as bare-bones storage space.

Depending on the level of rough-in during construction,

it might still be necessary for the homeowner to install

insulation, lay down flooring, put in drywall, and create a

stairway. And although heating and cooling could also be

accommodated and roughed-in using the home's original mechanical services, proven technologies used in places

such as Europe also make it possible for the installation of

self-contained, stand-alone, ductless HVAC (heating,

venting, and air conditioning) systems.

When converting your attic into living space, it's

important to be realistic about its dimensions.

Although it wouldn't take much to create that

stunning his-and-hers walk-in closet above the master

bedroom, it'll be a little more

challenging, if not impossible,

to create a billiards room.

That said, attic architecture

can present some very

interesting options. The

angles in the walls and

ceiling could be used as

architectural features to

enhance the living space. For

example, installing a plasma

TV screen on an angled

ceiling instead of a wall

means you can watch TV

lying down and looking up.

And depending on how

you use paint and colour, as

well as the creative use of

skylights and windows, you

could create a visually stunning

striking environment.

Even access to the

attic presents intriguing

design opportunities. Home

builders could extend the

principal stairway right up

into the attic, creating an

architectural centrepiece

for the home-and by

introducing a skylight,

the home would also have

environmentally friendly

natural light.

Homeowners might consider the addition of creative

stairways: everything from the hideaway fold-out style

to artistically striking stairways with concealed wall

brackets that create the illusion that the stairs are

suspended in space.

Indeed, the attic is poised to easily come back into

vogue. All it would take is for homeowners to start

asking builders to add them.

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